Friday, 19 September 2014

(263) September 20: Ecclesiastes 10-12 & 2 Corinthians 11:16-33

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider why God is to be remembered.

To ponder:
More proverbial sayings are given for navigating the uncertainties of life in which we have seen trouble could come without warning. First, we must guard against foolishness (9v17-10v7): Wise whispers are to be listened to more than foolish shouts. Wisdom is better than weapons in establishing victory, but sinners can destroy much. Foolishness can ruin the results of wisdom like a dead fly in perfume. The heart (desires and decisions) of the wise and foolish incline in opposite directions, and the fool shows how foolish he is even in everyday things like walking, no doubt as his foolishness pervades how he acts. In the face of a ruler’s anger, don’t panic and run, but respond calmly. It is an evil for fools to gain high positions of rule, but the rich have low ones. This presumes wealth is a result of wisdom and ability. Second, we must be careful in our work (10v8-10): Just when we consider we have succeeded in our daily work, disaster can strike. And if we are having to work with faulty tools (even people) success can still come if we apply ourselves more firmly with skill. Third, we should watch our speech (10v11-14): Charming those who are like snakes, may result in us getting bitten and so no benefiting. Wise words are nevertheless gracious, whereas the fool brings destruction on himself by multiplying words of foolishness and wicked madness. Fourth, we are to be responsible (10v15-20): The fool gets board of his work, and so fails to go to town to get on with it. This implies the wise, by contrast are diligent. Ill qualified and drunk (feasting in the morning) rulers are a curse to a land, but noble and sober rulers a blessing. Laziness causes one’s house (or a ruler’s kingdom) to fall into disrepair, and, no doubt, other aspects of life too. The drunk ruler thinks money can fix anything. Yet, the rich and ruling should not be cursed, in case someone hears and reports it, getting us into trouble. Fifth, we are to take precautions against disaster: Invest well (here in maritime business) and you will get a return, but spread your investments so that if disaster comes, some will be protected. Indeed, don’t be paralysed from action by the fact that disaster may come like rain from the cloud, and cannot be avoided like the falling tree. We just cannot know what God might do any more than the path of the wind or how the body is formed. Instead, we must work hard morning and evening in various labours, as we cannot know which will succeed.
            Throughout this section, as the whole book, we see that even the wise, we might say the Christian, is not exempt from disasters in life. They are part of God’s purpose. So we should not be surprised when they come.
            11v7-12v8 draws towards the book’s conclusion with a focus on God: Given such inevitable difficulties we are to enjoy however many years we have, but remember that there will be many days of darkness too, making the good times feel rather pointless, no doubt because what is achieved in them might then be lost. In particular, the young should be happy, not allowing themselves to worry about the future or be troubled by the aging process. Instead, they should fulfil the desires of their hearts - but only so far as they are not sinful, because God will judge them for what they do. Above all, they should therefore remember their Creator when young, before the days of trouble in which they will take no pleasure. These are the days of old age, poetically described as those of darkening eyesight, trembling limbs, lost teeth, sleeplessness, diminished hearing, fear, grey hair (as the blossoming almond tree), reduced energy, and faded desire (probably sexual), ending in man going to his eternal home and being mourned. It’s a call to ensure we remember God before we die (the silver cord severed), our means of drawing on the waters of life are shattered, our bodies return to dust, and our spirits return to God. But for remembering him, this life is meaningless, pointless, as everything we might have achieved is gone.
            The final section is the author’s reflection on the teacher’s wisdom he has recorded. He affirms its trustworthiness, noting the teacher was wise, teaching the people with “just the right words” which were “upright and true.” The author sees such wisdom as like the stick with nails embedded in it (goad) shepherds used to drive their sheep. In other words, it is needed to guide us in good and safe paths. And we are warned to add nothing to this wisdom (12v9-12). It is astonishing in the light of this commendation that some claim the author is critical of the teacher’s words. On the contrary, they are essential for us.
            The conclusion notes that despite innumerable books and intensive and wearisome study, the main thing we need to know in life is simple (12v12-14). It is to “fear God and keep his commandments.” Everything God requires of human beings is summed up in this. And we should do it knowing that he will judge everything we do, whether seen or hidden, good or evil. In the context of the book this really is the only point to life. Everything else can be lost in a moment, and will certainly be lost in death. But those who fear God and so live in faith and love before him have acted wisely, preparing for the day when they will face him. Jesus makes just this point in various parables (Lk 16v1-15, 19-31). Our lives could be ended at any time, so it is foolish to store up wealth without being rich to God (Lk 12v13-21).
Praying it home:       
Praise God for reminding you of this perspective. Pray that you would prioritise the fear of him.

Thinking further:                             
None today.

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